Our plan was to photograph the car at night. Parkside’s art director Mark Tate and chief shutter-man Adam Croy had a few tricks up their sleeves which they were keen to experiment with, resulting in some fairly spectacular shots, as you can see here.
After a few hours watching Adam and Mark apply their skills in virtual darkness, it was my turn to take the car for a drive, albeit at 11.30pm, but as it turned out, that wasn’t a bad thing. The less traffic the better — indeed, if nothing else that seemed to be a providentially plausible excuse.
However, I was not prepared for what I was about to experience. In fact trying to conjure up enough motor-noter purple prose and superlatives to convey my brief encounter with this incredible machine left me in somewhat of a quandary — and only one word was flashing clearly in my head after shutting down the 4.5-litre V8, precariously nestled just centimetres behind my spine, after finally parking it up in the owner’s garage. Brutal!
Having experienced several exceptional vehicles over the last few years, I reached the conclusion — after my nerves and internal organs had settled down — that it doesn’t, or indeed can’t, surely, get much better than this limited-production Ferrari 458 Speciale. I mean to say, where do manufacturers of exotic supercars such as Ferrari go from here?
I was left asking myself how much faster, how many more technological advancements — in terms of onboard electronic performance-enhancing wizardry combined with such things as tyre technology and engines with enough power to produce sufficient acceleration to reduce everyone but those of strong will into a blithering nervous wreck — are there left?
Fasterer and Furiouser
For the moment though — as if the standard, muchacclaimed 458 Italia wasn’t sufficient — Ferrari, in its infinite wisdom, obviously came to the conclusion that adrenaline junkies and well-heeled supercar enthusiasts wanted more from their weekend track warrior. In fact, something ‘speciale.’
No problem, open up the prancing-horse recipe book and apply the same necessary dietary ingredients as the 430 Scuderia — but make it lighter.
In doing so — and carrying on where the 430 Scuderia left off — Ferrari trimmed the 458’s waistline by an impressive 90kg, rendering it down to a more slimline 1387kg thanks to the removal of such unnecessary creature comforts as an audio
torque remains the same, it’s now spread more widely across the engine’s operating range. According to Ferrari, the result of all this tinkering means that the Speciale can demolish the benchmark 0–100kph dash in three seconds flat. The final proof was in the pudding, so to speak — testing the 458 Speciale at Ferrari’s Fiorano track resulted in a lap time of 83.5 seconds, 1.5 seconds up on the standard Italia, mission accomplished!
As I climbed into the passenger seat and pulled the featherweight door shut firmly on this ‘track’ version of the 458 Italia, my first thought, as we idled up the long driveway desperately trying not to wake up the entire neighbourhood in the process, was whether the owner was actually going to let me drive this incredible thing? That is, after he’s warmed everything up for me — something that he accomplished, well let’s just say, in fine style.
A colourful display highlighting temperatures for all the important stuff such as engine, brakes and tyres confirmed that the car was ready for action.
Once out on some fairly deserted country roads, following a few eye-watering demos of just what this car was capable of, the Speciale’s owner pulled over and said the fateful words — “OK, now it’s your turn!”
With a high degree of nervous anticipation, I slithered gently into the driver’s seat. With the motor still running, the raspy engine idle clearly audible inside the sparse cockpit, I was given a rundown on a few of the gizmos available in the car’s comprehensive electronic repertoire.
Now that I was in control of this mid-engined sprinter, all my senses had kicked into high gear, and accompanied by a frenzied exhaust note, there was little doubting the Speciale’s track-going intent. With a pull on the right-side carbon-fibre shift paddle, the car engaged first gear, awaiting for foot pressure on the accelerator before it automatically released the clutch and catapulted the Speciale forward. I found the driving position unusually low and the form-fitting, optional carbon-fibre racing seats surprisingly comfy. Intent on keeping my eyes firmly
the extent of my skills, or lack of same, by attempting to push the car to its limits. Anyway, looking for the Speciale’s limits on the public road would be hugely inappropriate. Having said that, the intuitive SSC and flash adaptive/damping system aren’t the only fancy bits of high-tech wizardry working away to keep all four wheels firmly glued to terra firma. The Speciale also incorporates a series of flaps in the front grille that open at speed, directing air underneath to aerodynamically balance the car front and rear, while electrically controlled flaps in the rear diffuser provide low drag in a straight line while applying high down-force during hard cornering — and that’s all crucial if you’re planning a few quick laps on your local race track.
As you’d expect, acceleration from any speed is necksnappingly rapid and, allied to all that go, stopping this beast requires the best set of picks in the business. Tucked in behind the 20-inch forged alloys are massive carbon-ceramic drilled brake rotors flanked by equally impressive multi-piston Brembo brake calipers. When setting out from cold, the huge brake pads need warming up to optimal temperature, but once heated they are very easy to modulate, and there’s no hint of fade. In fact, like many exotics of this calibre, the Speciale is not exempt from being able to produce more braking capability than grip, and relies on the anti-lock braking system to keep the rigid, lightweight aluminium chassis tracking straight.
After my brief and exhilarating experience of openroad driving, we headed into the ‘burbs’ to see what the Speciale felt like at more mundane town speeds. Unlike classic Ferraris of the past, this one felt totally at ease around town although, to be fair, there was very little traffic to contend with at that time of night. As well, with all settings back to ‘nana’ mode, the car felt smooth and relatively quiet inside.
Alas, my fun behind the wheel of this remarkable car